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J Biol Chem. 1999 Dec 3;274(49):34924-31.

Conformational and molecular basis for induction of apoptosis by a p53 C-terminal peptide in human cancer cells.

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College of Physicians, Surgeons of Columbia University, Experimental Therapeutics Program, Division of Medical Oncology, New York, New York 10032, USA.


A p53-derived C-terminal peptide induced rapid apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines carrying endogenous p53 mutations or overexpressed wild-type (wt) p53 but was not toxic to nonmalignant human cell lines containing wt p53. Apoptosis occurred through a Fas/APO-1 signaling pathway involving increased extracellular levels of Fas/FasL in the absence of protein synthesis, as well as activation of a Fas/APO-1-specific protease, FLICE. The peptide activity was p53-dependent, and it had no effect in three tumor cell lines with null p53. Furthermore, the C-terminal peptide bound to p53 protein in cell extracts. Thus, p53-dependent, Fas/APO-1 mediated apoptosis can be induced in breast cancer cells with mutant p53 similar to the recently described Fas/APO-1 induced apoptosis by wt p53. However, mutant p53 without p53 peptide does not induce a Fas/APO-1 activation or apoptosis. Docking of the computed low energy conformations for the C-terminal peptide with those for a recently defined proline-rich regulatory region from the N-terminal domain of p53 suggests a unique low energy complex between the two peptide domains. The selective and rapid induction of apoptosis in cancer cells carrying p53 abnormalities may lead to a novel therapeutic modality.

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